Once Upon a Time…

"Ouch! What was that for?!" The young man cried, leaping out of the line of fire. One hand tenderly cradled his face while the other was flexed at his side. The confusion and anger in his face was mirrored in that of the woman he directed his words to.

Oh yes, she was livid. She was also supposedly the singularly most beautiful young woman of this country, but James had a sneaking suspicion that the poets who praised the delicacy of her fingernails had never seen her in a rage.

"What are you doing in my ROOM?!" She shrieked, hurling a pillow at his head.

James had caught on enough by the point to duck, which was a lucky thing, considering the flurry of feathers that rained down on them. Unfortunately, the fact that he had escaped unscathed seemed to anger the princess all the more. Within a matter of seconds, she was towering over him on the bed, flailing a poker in his general direction.

"Get out! Get out of here, you worm! Who do you think you are? I've never seen you before, so what gives you the right to – ugh – to kiss me?! Are you some kind of freak who wanders around kissing sleeping girls? Get out!"

This diatribe was punctuated with several items flown his way – a hairbrush and lamp just a few among them. James, however, had slipped out mid-rant and was darting down the cold stone hall. The Princess's indignant cries followed him, and hurried his step. The exclamations allowed him to think of only one thing – escape.

Unfortunately, it was not so easy to get out as it was to get in (and considering the briar bushes and dragon, this was no small feat). It seemed as if the castle had suddenly blossomed with life. Men who had been sleeping on the ground were up and about, laughing and talking. Sadly, this meant that the previously dozing guards were also alert, as James was about to discover quite painfully.

"Hey, you! Halt!"

James wasn't quite sure what kind of person would actually stop at those words if they were running for their lives, but he was certain that he wasn't in the obliging frame of mind. Instinctively, he sped up. Darting down the hall, past suits of armor and baffled looking servants (who were wondering just how the fresh baked bread they were holding mere moments ago had become moldy). James was so intent on not running into anyone that he sprinted straight into a wall. The guards who had been following the young man grinned bemusedly at his limp form before lifting him bodily and carting him away.

"Calm down, dear. Now, tell me what exactly he did, without any of the hysterics, please."

"He was in my room! And he violated me!" The last was said in a dramatic whisper. James blinked slowly. He knew that voice, and something was telling him the he should run – why then did it feel like his mind was clouded? Still, he struggled weakly for his knees and decided to go with what his subconscious was telling him – it was time to run for it.

Unfortunately, his body had other plans, and his legs promptly deposited him back on the floor.

"You ran into a wall." A voice said coldly. James strained his head up to see who it belonged to, and found himself staring into the face of an extremely tall, middle aged man.

"You!" The Princess spat at him, glaring at the intruder briefly before turning back to her father. "And that's why we should have him executed."

That seemed to bring things into a clearer focus for him. Did she just say execution? Maybe his mind was still playing tricks on him, but the chances of that seemed slim, considering that the King was regarding him rather gravely.

"Now, now, Evangeline. Let's let the boy explain himself. Or at least, attempt to."

All at once, James became aware that he was sprawled before the thrones, and that every pair of eyes in the court was trained on him. Struggling to sit up and regain a scrap of dignity, James cleared his throat and looked around at his waiting audience.

"Well, my name is James." There now, that wasn't such a bad start. "And she was asleep."
"We're all aware of that, boy."

Right. Trying to keep the flush from his cheeks, he quickly hurried on with his story. But not before straightening and returning the glare that the Princess was giving him.

"Not just the Princess, your Majesty. All of you. The entire castle. For one hundred years."

His bold statement was followed by silence, and then the King chuckled. The rest of the court followed, laughing as if he had just told them that a goose had composed an opera. What did they find so funny?

"Very amusing, boy. Do go on with this 'story' of yours…"

Despite the laughter, James boldly continued. "It all started about fourteen years back, when I was five. My grandfather told me a story – a story about a sleeping castle, where the people didn't age, and there was a Princess in a tower who could only be awakened by a kiss. This morning, as I was out gathering food, I found the castle, and well… you've heard the rest."

Oh great. Now they all were certain he was insane. All the laughter had died out, and all eyes had turned to the king, who was meeting his gaze grimly.

"Now lad, if we had been asleep for one hundred years, surely we would have noticed?" He asked. "You said yourself none of us have aged. So where is your evidence?"

James spluttered, and began quickly pointing at all the surrounding walls.

"Look at the tapestries! They've lost any hint of color! And I bet most of the food has gone sour, and there are cobwebs and dust everywhere!"

The King frowned at him imposingly. "I will NOT have you speak that way to me or the occupants of my court. Now, it is true that we have let the care and keeping of my house wither since my wife's death, and your impertinence in this time of mourning will not go unnoticed. Take him to the dungeons."

With that, James felt the strong hands of guards clamp down on his shoulders. The last thing he saw before he was dragged out of the throne room was the cold look in the Princess's eyes.

AN: This is a story I started a few years ago. I'm not sure whether I'm going to continue it or not, I guess it depends on the response I get. So read, review, praise, flame, whatever. Hope you enjoyed the first bit!